Best of Lower Manhattan Walking Tour, New York

Best of Lower Manhattan Walking Tour (Self Guided), New York

Every part of Manhattan is terrific, but if you are looking for one that showcases the best overview of New York City’s architectural styles, it’s Lower Manhattan – or the Downtown – that would get the most votes. This is where it all started, where New Amsterdam was founded, where Canal Street used to be a canal, and where Wall Street used to be a wall marking the end of town. It’s also where the city has seen the most tragedy, from terrible fires to terrorist attacks that have reshaped the skyline.

Today, it’s a place where the old and new converge, where Colonial churches and classical structures stand in the shadow of high risers, together making for a memorable sight to behold.

Venture down to Lower Manhattan to see how the area came back to life after the heavy blow of September 11, 2001. Hours can be spent discovering newly-developed sites such as the new World Trade Center complex, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, and the adjoining Liberty Park. It’s all very walkable and quite stunning visually! By all means, visit these locations, but keep in mind that most New Yorkers don’t see them as mere tourist attractions.

Look no further than Battery Park for a walk along the water with refreshing views of Staten Island, Lady Liberty, the Staten Island Ferry, and parts of New Jersey. Named for the British cannons that once protected New York, the park has more than twenty statues and monuments, as well as newer attractions like the SeaGlass Carousel, an aquatic-themed merry-go-round.

If you fancy some historic sights, go to Fraunces Tavern where George Washington bid farewell to his troops, the Federal Hall where he took the oath of office as the first US President, or the Trinity Church where he once worshipped.

In the world’s financial capital, you also owe yourself a walk through Wall Street, home of the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ, leading to the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, where you can see the entire city.

To find your way around this plethora of landmarks and not get lost, follow our self-guided walking tour and enjoy your time in New York City!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Best of Lower Manhattan Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Best of Lower Manhattan Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » New York (See other walking tours in New York)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • One World Observatory
  • National September 11 Memorial & Museum
  • Castle Clinton & Battery Park
  • Fraunces Tavern
  • Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House
  • Bowling Green Park
  • Trinity Church
  • Federal Hall
  • Wall Street
1
One World Observatory

1) One World Observatory (must see)

One World Trade Center (One WTC) in lower Manhattan is a highly reflective, elegant steel and glass wedge tapering skyward for 1,776 feet which is a reminder. The year of U.S. Independence is 1776. Designed by architect David Childs, One WTC replaces the Towers lost in the attack of September 9, 2001. One WTC is presently the tallest tower in North America.

The Observatory is located on the 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors of One World Trade Center. It is a three-story observation deck perched 1,268 feet above street level, offering views of New York City's iconic sights, surrounding waters, and skyline. Visitors and tenants each have their entrances to the building. The viewing deck of the center is on the 100th floor. The 101st floor houses a food court. The 102nd floor is an events venue.

Visitors can explore the various levels of the Observatory, filled with interactive and inspirational displays. City Pulse, an interactive tool provided by Tour Ambassadors, gives visitors information about New York, its facts, and its legends. There is an admission charge with discounts for children and seniors. Admission is free for 9/11 responders and victims' families.

One World Observatory features a restaurant, a cafe, and a bar with sprawling views of the New York City skyline. The cafe is called "One Cafe," the bar and "small plates" grill are called "One Mix," and for more ambitious diners is a restaurant "One Dining." One is the name for all three places. To enter the restaurant, purchase a full Observatory ticket is required.
2
National September 11 Memorial & Museum

2) National September 11 Memorial & Museum (must see)

September 11, 2001, Tuesday morning, 7 am. Flights were bound from New York to points west. By 8:45 am an American Airlines Boeing 767 slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Less than 20 minutes later, another 767 hit the south tower. The Twin Towers collapsed in flames and 2,977 people died. This day would never be forgotten.

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a memorial and museum in New York City commemorating the September 11, 2001, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing attacks. By November 2003, the memorial design project had been awarded to architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker. Their memorial is called "Reflecting Absence." It is a forest of white oak trees surrounding two recessed pools formed by the footprints of the Twin Towers.

The park is level with the street. The names of victims who died from the attacks, including the 1993 bombing, are inscribed on parapets around the waterfalls. The waterfalls are intended to mute outside noises and create a meditative atmosphere at the site.

A callery pear tree that survived, called the "Survivor Tree," was replanted at the World Trade Center. It is thriving. Six other "survivor" pear trees and linden trees have been planted at other sites.

The "Memorial Glade" is a path that follows a temporary ramp used by first responders. It has six enormous stones that jut up through the ground as if violently pushed. The stones simply "strength and resistance."

The September 11 Museum at the site opened in May 2014. It has a collection of over 40,000 images, 14,000 artifacts, and about 3,500 recordings, including 500 hours of videos. There are steel items from the towers, such as the "Last Column." The museum is designed by the architectural firm Davis Brody Bond. It is 70 feet underground, accessible through a pavilion.

The pavilion follows a deconstructivist design, resembling collapsed buildings. Two "tridents" from the towers are inside. One of the museum walls is the old "slurry" wall holding back the Hudson River. The bodies of 1,115 victims were moved to a bedrock crypt space as part of the museum.
3
Castle Clinton & Battery Park

3) Castle Clinton & Battery Park

Fort Amsterdam was the first fort in Manhattan. It was built in 1626 when New York City was known by the Dutch name New Amsterdam. The fort Amsterdam was demolished in 1790, and a new fort called "West Battery" was installed at the tip of Manhattan Island in 1811.

Designed by architect John McComb Jr. with Army Colonel Jonathan Williams as a consulting engineer, West Battery was roughly circular with a radius of approximately 92 feet. It had a battery of 28 "thirty-two pounder" cannons, complementing triple-tiered Castle Williams on nearby Governors Island. A wood bridge connected the fort to the tip of lower Manhattan.

In 1815, West Battery was named Fort Clinton in honor of New York City Mayor DeWitt Clinton. The fort was garrisoned in 1812 but never used for combat. It was Castle Garden, a large entertainment venue. Later, it was an immigration center. Between 1896 and 1941, it was converted into an aquarium. Now it's a tourist center and terminal for the Statue of Liberty ferry.

The lately renovated 25-acre Battery Park has more than a few monuments and memorials, mostly located on "Monument Walk." Hope Garden is a memorial dedicated to AIDS victims. The Sphere, the world's largest bronze sculpture by German artist Fritz Koenig had been exhibited there. The Netherland Monument recalls the purchase of Manhattan Island.

Other memorials are The Memorial of the Battle of the Atlantic; The American Merchant Marine Memorial; The Immigrants; The Korean War; John Ericsson and the USS Monitor; and Explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano statue. Battery Park is part of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, surrounding the entire island of Manhattan.
4
Fraunces Tavern

4) Fraunces Tavern

Fraunces Tavern is a landmark museum and a restaurant in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, sitting on the corner of Broad Street at 54 Pearl Street. Opened in 1762 by American restaurateur Samuel Fraunces, this location features much of the revolutionary history of New York before, during, and after the American Revolution. It was once the headquarters for George Washington, a venue for peace negotiations with the British, and a federal office in the Early Republic.

On the inside, Fraunces happens to be bigger than it looks on the outside. Whilst here, you may wish to see the lobby frequented by the likes of George Washington during the American Revolution or the Long Room in which he and his 185 friends gathered for a celebration dinner on November 25, 1783, after the British had left New York, known since as the “Evacuation Day.”

George Washington himself was a big fan of Fraunces’ cooking and even made the innkeeper his presidential steward. He generally liked taverns and booze and even named his three dogs Tipsy, Tippler, and Drunkard. As part of the American Whiskey Trail and the New York Freedom Trail, Fraunces is a must-go tourist site for history, whiskey, and beer lovers.

The whiskey bar has the best selection in the city, and the tavern’s beer selection is well-stocked. The restaurant serves a traditional American menu, offering meatloaf, steak (Fillet Mignon on a Stone is highly recommended!), various sandwiches and salads, plus desserts (creme brulee and pecan pie in particular).

The museum tells the story of the building, along with varied exhibitions of art and artifacts.
5
Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House

5) Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House

In 1899, Supervising Architect of the Treasury James Knox Taylor invited twenty firms to compete for the commission of the new U.S. Custom House in New York City. Architect Cass Gilbert won the project. His architectural style relies on ideals that include order, harmony, and structure, reflected in Neoclassical and Fine-Arts architecture.

Gilbert's design reflected the aesthetic ideas of the "City Beautiful Movement," themes of patriotism and urbanity. Constructed in 1907, the U.S. Customs House currently houses the Museum of the American Indian, the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, and the Department of Transportation.

The seven-story building has three-story Corinthian columns. The fifth story is wrapped with an enormous entablature frieze. The seventh story is covered by the mansard roof. Enclosed pediments mark the second-floor windows.

The main entrance consists of a grand staircase flanked by four female statues representing America, Asia, Europe, and Africa, by sculptor Daniel Chester French. Above the columns on the facade are twelve marble figures of maritime nations. Over the windows are heads showing the "eight races" of humanity.

The interior is based on a square plan with a central rotunda surrounded by corridors. The ceremonial Great Hall on the second floor is finished in marble colors and textures. There are curved staircases at both ends with bronze railings, marble treads, and risers. Rooms are decorated in nautical motifs and items.

Ceiling murals by American painter Reginald Marsh show ships entering the harbor. The three-story rotunda is the masterpiece of Spanish engineer Raphael Guastavino. The rotunda was restored in 2001.

The Custom House was renamed in 1990 to commemorate Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and its first Secretary of the Treasure. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
6
Bowling Green Park

6) Bowling Green Park

Bowling Green is a small public park in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan. It was an area of public use since Dutch colonial days when it was also home to Fort New Amsterdam. The place was officially designated as a park in 1733. Bowling Green is the oldest park in New York City, enclosed in its 18th-century iron fence. The park actually was a bowling green early on and it had a statue of George III on horseback. George came down with the American Revolution.

Bowling Green was a notable historical site. There was a settlement of the indigenous Lenape people at the end of the Wickquasgeck Trail, which later became Broadway. The Dutch colonial governor of New Amsterdam, Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island from the Lenape at the site of Bowling Green. In the early years, elegant federal-style townhouses were built around the park.

President George Washington resided at the Alexander Macomb House, the second Presidential Mansion on the north of the park at 39-41 Broadway. Washington lived in the house from February 23 to August 30, 1790, when the U.S. capital was moved to Philadelphia.

The park is an elliptical plaza. There is a large fountain in the center of the fenced-in lawn. A bronze sculpture of a "Charging Bull" designed by artist Arturo Di Modica, weighs 7,000 pounds. "Fearless Girl" by sculptor Kristen Visbal, faced off against the bull until she was moved in 2017 to face off against the New York Stock Exchange.
7
Trinity Church

7) Trinity Church

Trinity Church is a traditional high church located not far from the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway in Lower Manhattan. Renowned for its storied past and endowment, this historic temple has been around since the late 17th century.

Originally built in 1698, the church had been remodeled three times until the current edifice came in 1846. Over the centuries, the Manhattan Trinity Church has held an important place in American history. During the American Revolution, it served as the British headquarters before being destroyed by the Great Fire of New York in 1776. The replacement building was completed in 1790 and saw many of the Nation's Founding Fathers, including Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, attending services. President Washington and members of his government often worshiped there.

The burial grounds outside the church are a who's who of the early days of the Nation. It is now a must-stop site for fans of the hit musical Hamilton (by composer Lin-Manuela Miranda), the lead character of which, Alexander Hamilton, is buried here alongside his wife and son. Washington’s aide and one of his most valued military staff, Hamilton was the Nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury after George Washington was elected president in 1789. Following Washington’s death in December 1799, for a brief period, he was also the most senior-ranking officer in the U.S. Army, until his retirement a year later.

Among other notable figures buried at Trinity are William Bradford (English printer, often referred to as "the pioneer printer of the Middle colonies"), Robert Fulton (American engineer and inventor of a commercial steamboat), William Alexander (also known as Lord Stirling, a Scottish-American major general during the American Revolutionary War), Francis Lewis (a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New York), Hercules Mulligan (Irish-American tailor and spy during the American Revolutionary War), Edward Irving Koch (the mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989), and others. Remarkably, the Trinity Church graveyard is also the only cemetery in Manhattan still in service.
8
Federal Hall

8) Federal Hall

The original Federal Hall at 28 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan was built in 1703. It replaced the old Stadt Huys, the first city hall in New York City, built in the 17th century during Dutch colonial times. The new structure was used as a city hall, a library, a firehouse, and a debtors prison. The Stamp Act Congress and the Continental Congress met there. The inauguration of George Washington as the first President of the United States was held on April 30, 1789, on the balcony of Federal Hall.

The Federal Hall demolished in 1812 was replaced by the Greek Revival-style Federal Hall. The new building designed by architects Ithiel Town and Alexander J. Davis was completed in 1842. The neoclassical edifice served as the U.S. Custom House and eventually the U.S. Sub-Treasury. It is today the Federal Hall National Memorial.

The building has a rotunda dome by sculptor John Frazee. The Greek Revival structure is built with Tuckahoe marble. The 18 steps of the main entrance are five-foot granite blocks. A large bronze sculpture of George Washington by sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward is installed on the front steps. The statue was unveiled in 1883 to commemorate the first inauguration of George Washington.

Doric colonnades hold up a triangular pediment. There are flat pilasters on the Nassau Street facade. The rotunda is 60 feet in diameter. It is an amphiprostyle with balconies. The wall of the rotunda has four sections, each containing four columns. A saucer dome tops the rotunda, covered with a circular skylight. The floor has marble blocks in a circular pattern. A stone in the center marks the spot where Washington once stood.

Federal Hall operates as a national memorial. It has tourist information about the monuments and parks in the New York Harbour area, and a New York City tourism information center. The memorial has several exhibits open to the public. The gift shop has colonial and early American items for sale.
9
Wall Street

9) Wall Street

In the days of New Amsterdam, Wall Street was known in Dutch as "de Waalstraat." The origin of the name varies. It might refer to the Walloon people from the Netherlands who settled around there. Or, the name connects with Peter Minuit, the Governor of the colony, who was a Walloon. Another theory holds that there was a wall or rampart of wood on the northern end of New Amsterdam. It was removed in 1699.

Wall Street covers an eight-block stretch of lower Manhattan. Broadway crosses at the west end and South Street at the East River end. Whether the name was for a wall or a Walloon, Wall Street today stands for the financial markets of the United States. In these short eight blocks is a major financial center of the world.

In the late 1700s, there was a buttonwood tree growing on Wall Street where traders would meet regularly under the buttonwood tree to trade shares. In 1792 they created the Buttonwood Agreement, forming the association that became known as the New York Stock Exchange.

The Brutalist and Bauhaus Post-Modern Craze stiles in architecture largely bypassed the Wall Street area. The buildings here are more venerable, products of the Gilded Age architecture. Facades, even on the tallest buildings, are more elaborate.

Wall Street landmarks include The Federal Hall National Memorial; 55 Wall Street, the former National City Bank Building; the former Custom House; 14 Wall Street, a 32-story Skyscraper with a stepped pyramid; the New York Stock Exchange Building on Broad Street; the Irving Trust Company Building, a 50-story Skyscraper; and the famous "House of Morgan" on 60 Wall Street.

Beginning in the vaunted Gilded Age, Wall Street has become an icon of a country developed by a system of capitalism, trade, and innovative ventures in business.

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